Classic Mornings

Just Waiting to be Found


The farmer’s wife lost the cat. But don’t be upset. All the while, it was only Haydn, you could say.

Franz Joseph Haydn said that he composed his Fantasy in C major for keyboard (Hob. 17, no. 4) “in the moment of the greatest good humor” And he used the tune of an Austrian folk song titled – in translation – The Farmer’s Wife Lost the Cat. The tune isn’t lost in the Fantasy, but there for all to hear.

Though I’ve played the Fantasy regularly over the years, recently I went looking not for the cat, but for a text to the song.  In a southern German version, the farmer’s wife does find the cat.  According to the lyrics, she first thought about making a great soup with all sorts of wonderful ingredients for the cat to enjoy if it showed up. And then she remembered one of the cat’s favorite places: in the barn by the hay. Sure enough, that’s where she found the cat.

Sometimes, without even a clue as to where to look or what to listen to, I continue to find all sorts of music selections, stories and information that I end up sharing with listeners. The ever-expanding Friends of WILL Library and online research tools have helped with that.

When I began hosting classical music programs - in college - there weren’t a lot of classical recordings at the radio station.  Only a few hours of classical music were aired each week. And that was assuming that there was somebody on the all-volunteer student staff who was interested in a classical music program. The recordings (all LPs at the time) were basically hand-me-downs from a station that played considerably more classical music.

One of those featured the Hungarian pianist Tamás Vásáry in the music of Claude Debussy. Years after I first played that recording, I had the chance to meet the pianist. I was excited to tell him that he had introduced me to the 2 Arabesques of Debussy with his recording and that I particularly enjoyed the first of the two. He sort of humbled the piece by explaining theoretically what Debussy had done in writing it. I’m sure that explanation worked for him. For me, the piece has always meant so much more.

Tamás Vásáry turned 85 on August 11th.  I hope he didn’t dismiss it as just another day or just another birthday. On Classic Mornings, I played his 1970 performance of the Debussy Arabesques.

I know that Canadian pianist Angela Hewitt’s 60th on July 26th wasn’t just another birthday. She performed Bach’s Goldberg Variations at Wigmore Hall in London.  A Bach specialist, she’s determined to present the complete keyboard music in concerts by 2020.

She was asked by Lynn Saxberg of the Ottawa Citizen if now that she’s 60, she’ll begin to think of retirement in the next few years. Her response: “No. Pianists retire when they’re 95, or when they drop dead. When I finish my Bach cycle in 2020, I will have a few months off. I’m looking forward to having time to stay at home, all three homes: Italy, Canada and London.”

Other major birthdays and anniversaries this summer included pianist Bella Davidovich’s 90th birthday on the same day that violinist/violist/conductor Pinchas Zukerman celebrated his 70th.(July 16th). The German lutenist, Lutz Kirchhof, whom I like to call “Lutz the Lutenist,” turned 65 on August 1st. English organist and conductor Simon Preston turned 80 the following day.

The centennial of American violinist Ruggiero Ricci (1918-2012) was on July 24th. That of American cellist Leonard Rose (1918-1984) was on July 27th. August 3rd was the 150th anniversary of the birth of Finnish composer Oscar Merikanto (1868-1924) and July 24th the bicentennial of the birth of the Belgian harpist and composer Félix Godefroid (1818-1897).

I did a little searching, but didn’t notice any reports of public celebrations that took place in conjunction with any of those commemorations. Yet they found their way to Classic Mornings. That’s just where you might have expected to find them.